Zambia, a double-edged welcome

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Our next stop was the Botswana-Zambian border, Kazungula, where you take the ferry to Zambia. At arrival, we were immediately bombarded with local guys that wanted to help us with the crossing. We accepted one of them, but got the whole group. They were all waiting for us after we were cleared by Botswana immigration, waiving at us that we needed to hurry. Then they went ahead and ran in front of the car like a herd of pouncing antelope. The ferry however, was on the other side of the Zambezi, so we couldn’t really determine why we had to hurry! I guess it will remain one of the many mysteries in Africa. It is never boring here, I can assure you.

The ferry crossing went smoothly with the help of our troop, but we knew the hardest part was still to come: the Zambian side of the border. Normally when crossing a border you have to enter just one building, show your passport, maybe write down some info and voila, but in Zambia they do it different. Radically different.


If you ever cross the Botswana border into Zambia with a car, this is the information you will need to make it a little easier. The first few things you will absolutely need to get your car and yourselves across the border into Zambia: Kwacha (Zambian money), US dollars and all the right paperwork for your car (see If you have the currencies before crossing, it will save you a whole lot of money, because you can’t get them from an ATM or office within the border area. But there is always a way, as the troops are there with spare dollars and kwacha’s. First up, the visa can only be paid in USD (weird as fuck, I know), and for a single-entry costs 50 USD and double-entry 80 USD. If you want to visit Victoria falls on the Zimbabwe side when you are in Zambia, you should definitely get the double-entry, or lose money and time on it. Then we went to the next counter which was for… well I’m not entirely sure.. We showed our papers of the car; got another paper; had to go around the building; enter on the other side (we could see the counter we were before through the panel of this counter, it was in the same room) and got another stamp on our papers from a guy who was taking an, apparently very funny, phone call at the same time. After this we had to go back around to the first counter, the woman there wanted to check our car. Apparently, the engine number on our blue book, didn’t match the engine number it the car, or at least the one we could find. But everything else was fine, so we could pass through anyway. If you drive in Zambia, you need to have reflecting bumper stickers, red at the back white in the front. They try to sell those to you at the border for a huge price (200 pula). In our experience, she didn’t even check this and you should just stop at the first shop when you are in Zambia and find them there, saves you money!

(Btw, don’t stop reading here, we’ll eventually get to the fun part of Zambia!)

Then we took all of the papers we had collected with us to an adjoining building to get a CIP number, which is a Customs Importation Permit. First, we showed our papers at one desk after waiting a while, this guy looked at it and didn’t do anything else, but told us to go to the woman at the desk next to him. She filled in all of our information and gave us the CIP number. My efficient Dutch brain was already in overdrive, but this double-desk thing seemed even more useless than what we’d been through so far. The next thing she tells us, go to that counter outside to pay for what she just gave us… My brain decided to stop working.

So here we paid for carbon taxes, 275 Kwacha, with our environmental background we could appreciate this. Next up was paying the toll fees, which again, can only be paid in USD and was 48 USD for our car. Oh btw, even the ferry crossing could not be paid in Pula (Botswana money) and was 150 Kwacha. Anyway, after that we went to a cute, and compared to everything else, deserted building where we had to pay for some kind of Council fee, whatever that is, no one could explain! This was 30 Kwacha per person. Finally, we could pass the gate into Zambia. But we weren’t finished yet. Even though we had insurance that covered Zambia, by law you need to buy a Third-Party insurance in Zambia. And thus 162 Kwacha for a month was our final money leacher. Or so we thought, because we still had to pay back the guys that helped us. The only money we had was Pula, where would we have gotten Kwacha or USD? We didn’t try, but I suggest trying some banks in Kasane or Kazungula on the Botswana side and see if you’re lucky they have either one of that. For us, our helping man had paid for everything. We had to pay him back with Pula. But how would they make money from us if they didn’t get it back with a huge interest. So we advise you to find the exact buying rates for USD and Kwacha to Pula, because they will tell you whatever. And then discuss everything in advance, so the won’t take advantage of you. We wanted to pay the guy who helped us separately, but they wanted about a 1000 pula more than we had calculated, so we didn’t pay more. It did not feel like a very good welcome I can tell you, we were happy to get out of there… 2,5 hours later and 330 euro poorer… Which was 80 euro more than we had calculated. I really hope he will spread this money amongst the whole group that ran with us.


For that day we had taken into account the option that it could take a whole day, but it was only 2,5 hours! Now we arrived in Livingstone around noon. And after we treated ourselves on a beautiful and lekker lunch, we checked-in at Jollyboy’s Backpackers and relaxed at the pool the rest of the day! We loved Jollyboys, it is a backpackers right up our alley as they do recycling and use solar panels etc.

Lars chilling at the Zambezi River after our visit to the Zambian side of the falls.

The next day we went to see Victoria falls. Lonely planet had told us that this month would still be a very good month to go. However, as soon as we drove up to the border, we were told the Zambian side was all but dried up. It was not worth to pay the 20 USD per person to get in. So we didn’t and instead were taken by a very drunk, but very funny Zambian to cross the Zimbabwe border onto the bridge. Simon (his name) told us everything he knew about the falls and some other, more irrelevant stuff, like how to take care of your wife (as he assumed we were married). He tried to convince us the money we gave him would go to his education… sure..!

Our cute an drunk "guide" Simon, telling us about the falls, wanting to take pictures of us. But we don't trust him with the camera on a bridge!

The next day however, we went to the Zimbabwe side. Along with us, three other people from Jollyboys went; Marcela from The Netherlands (cousin of Marc, the Dutch fish farmer in Zambia from Boer zoekt Vrouw, sorry Marcela, had to mention it!), Morgan from California and Dave from Virginia (he was my dad’s age!). As soon as we entered the park, we felt the cool wind from the falls. Then we went around a corner and were undeniably overwhelmed by what we saw! It is amazing what nature can create, all that water crashing down!! It looked absolutely stunning and every lookout was a little different and as pretty or prettier than the one before! After a few hours we got hungry, so we went inside Victoria Falls town and had a local lunch, eaten the way it is supposed to be eaten, with our hands! Then we went back to Jollyboys, and after a good cooling down dive in the swimming pool, we had a few beers to toast the day. But the day wasn’t over yet, it was Friday night! We met two German volunteers, a Zambian and a Welsh guy who were working at a school in Livingstone. The Welsh guy convinced us, and a group of about twelve Canadians, to go to a local club. This club had a great mix of tourists and locals. And damn, those Africans can dance! You know those dance battles in movies where people form a circle around a dance off, well that’s what happened in this club. It was great entertainment!

Livingstone had taken the hard edge of our welcome in Zambia. And this day was the perfect ending to our stay in Livingstone. The next morning we were up early (considered) and on our way to Lusaka where we met with Sue and Jeff from VisionZambia. You can read about the amazing work they do in this blog,

Did you like reading this blog? Or do you have any questions or comments, please don’t be shy to give a comment in the section below.

Marcela, Morgan and Me! With a beautiful rainbow in the background.

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[…] The elephants and baobabs had made our day and relieved we returned to Planet Baobab. The next morning, we took the road again. We were almost out of petrol though and in order to get to the next big town, Nata, we needed to find a petrol station or else we would probably not make it. There was one close to Planet Baobab, but it was without petrol. Hmm… What now? Apparently, this happens quite often as many locals stock on petrol for situations like this and sell it with a profit; I headed into the closest town and bought enough petrol to make it to Nata, and from there all the way to Kazungula where we would enter Zambia. Read more about this adventure in our next blog, click here… […]

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